Congress names Sheila Dikshit as chief ministerial candidate for UP elections; 'I'm ready for the challenge', says former Delhi CM
Sheila Dikshit on Thursday expressed confidence of Congress winning the Assembly election in UP.
New Delhi: Ending speculation, the Congress announced on Thursday that Sheila Dikshit, who was the CM of Delhi for 15 long years, will be the chief ministerial candidate of the party in the high-voltage and high-stakes Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.
The Congress also put in place a campaign committee and coordination committee to accelerate its election effort in the electorally crucial state.
The party announced Sanjay Sinh, who is a Rajya Sabha MP from Assam, as chief of its campaign committee. Sinh is a member of former royal family of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh. The committee has five other members.
Party leader Pramod Tiwari will head the coordination committee, which includes senior leaders Mohsina Kidwai and Salman Khurshid.
Rita Bahuguna Joshi, Jitin Prasada, Shriprakash Jaiswal, PL Punia, Pradeep Jain Aditya, Pradeep Mathur and Nirmal Khatri are other members of the panel.
The announcement of Dikshit's name came two days after Congress appointed actor-turned-politician Raj Babbar as its chief in UP.
Dikshit chosen for her strong credentials as Delhi's CM, says Congress
There had been several media reports that the former Delhi CM will be the party's face in Uttar Pradesh. "For the first time your assumption has proved right," Congress General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi told the media at the party headquarters here.
On the other hand, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is in charge of party affairs in Uttar Pradesh, said Dikshit was chosen as party's face for the polls considering her strong credentials as Delhi's CM for three consecutive terms.
He, however, declined to comment when asked how Dikshit fits in the vision of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi to promote young leadership in the party.
Asked about Congress having a tradition of not projecting a chief ministerial candidate, Azad said "there have been exceptions."
Election strategist Prashant Kishor had recommended that Dikshit should play a major role in the party's poll campaign in the state projecting her as a prominent Brahmin face and could help Congress regain support of the electorally sizeable community, as per PTI.
'I will go to UP polls with conviction and confidence'
Minutes after her name was announced, an elated Dikshit, 78, expressed confidence of Congress winning the Assembly election, likely to be held early next year.
Acknowledging that it will be 'major challenge' for her in UP, Dikshit said Congress will go to the polls with confidence and that the party will take on BJP, ruling Samajwadi Party and BSP equally.
"There is big challenge in Uttar Pradesh as it is a big state. I am up for it. We will face the electorate with conviction and confidence," she said.
The senior Congress leader also thanked the party leadership for entrusting her with such a 'big responsibility', adding she would like to have Priyanka Gandhi Vadra campaign with her across the state.
Dikshit said Priyanka is a very popular leader. "My plea would be that she campaign across the state," as per IANS.
The announcement came even as Delhi's Anti-Corruption Bureau issued fresh summons to Dikshit today for questioning in an alleged Rs 400-crore water tanker scam, pertaining to her rule as Delhi chief minister.
The former Delhi CM is the daughter-in-law of former union minister and Congress leader from UP Uma Shankar Dikshit. She is from the Brahmin community, which had been supporters of the Congress, but is seen to have shifted its loyalty.
She led Congress to three consecutive victories in Delhi Assembly polls in 1998, 2003 and 2008 before facing a humiliating drubbing in 2013, losing even her own seat to Aam Aadmi Party's Arvind Kejriwal.
The Congress could win only two seats in the last Lok Sabha election in UP and has been out of power for over two decades.
(With Agency inputs)